Saturday, March 17, 2012
I am very saddened by the passing away today of Pope Shenouda III, the outstanding Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church (and, according to the Coptic Orthodox tradition, officially Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark.) His Holiness Shenouda III contributed significantly to the theological dialogue between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church. His pastoral work and charismatic preaching influenced many thinkers especially in the Churches of the Middle East.
His personality was such a humble and rich person who was able to bring thousands of followers and admirers to not only hear him in his weekly sermons at St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo and in Alexandria but also to share and laugh with him when he joked about things including himself.
For forty years, I followed closely the words of this charismatic man, first as an attendee of his sermons and lectures in Cairo, then in Toronto when he visited his people a few times in the 1980s, 1990s, and later in the 21st century, or on YouTube through the Internet.
May God give him peace in heaven and continue the ecumenical work that this distinguished leader brought forward in the Churches.
Friday, March 16, 2012
In a lecture on the development of what Freud called “The Unconscious,” Dr. Paul Bloom of Yale University said in 2007 “We use our minds and our behaviours and our actions continually to try to trick people into believing what's not true. We try to trick people, for instance, into believing that we're tougher, smarter, sexier, more reliable, more trustworthy and so on, than we really are. And a large part of social psychology concerns the way in which we present ourselves to other people so as to make the maximally positive impression even when that impression isn't true.” If that is true, then I need to overcome the selfishness and tricky ways embedded in my Unconscious. In fact, I sense it in me and around me all the time in real life. Cheating is a norm of adaptation to modernity in the scheme of evolution. There must be a counter-norm to cheating in order to impress the moral demands on my conscious and unconscious acts. It makes more sense that the development of true civilization of justice is dependent on how much each of us is willing to let go of himself as Christ did, and the willing of each one of us to trust as Christ trusted. Christ said it “He that finds his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it” (Matt 10: 39). We are dependent on God’s grace but God works through us if we allow him. We all need to force ourselves into self-discipline of developing a prayerful attitude of sacrifice – in thought and action – again and again. The more we do it, the more it becomes a habit...A bit of sacrifice and a bit of prayer everyday is a start. If we commit to repeating this we will go into the deep, and slowly we will be transformed by God from within. Now I understand the enormous benefit of repetition of prayers which I had thought was not clever. By repeating my prayer, I am getting used to being in the presence of God and investing my time in the eternal. It is still selfish to think of myself but it is much better than cheating. With time, this prayer will be grounded in my being and transferred to my offspring. By repeating it with others, the community prays together and this togetherness cements the community and prepares the offspring to imitate their parents. Nothing is lost if we work honestly together, but at a deeper level, the more I lose myself in the community the more I resemble the Eternal God; for God is a continuous self-giving community of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father and the binding power of this eternal self- giving is the Holy Spirit who in us creates life from disorder and chaos (Genesis 1). And while we are at it, let us make a conscious effort to reform our intentions towards each other and renew our commitment to the Church, the visible community of the kingdom of God. If Jung or Freud is right, our efforts will be transmitted to “The Collective Unconscious” and “trick” us and others to become children of God. Satan uses almost the same words “become like God” to inspire selfishness. By imitating Christ, the tricks of Satan will be overcome. Or as St. John Chrysostom said of Christ “Hell was tricked [by his presence].”